Jan 1, 2013 Comments Off on Trouble With Length
A friend pointed out that the most effective posts on this blog are the shortest.
Jan 1, 2013 Comments Off on Trouble With Length
A friend pointed out that the most effective posts on this blog are the shortest.
Dec 21, 2011 Comments Off on Overindulging in Innovation
Note: This was originally posted to Aquent’s Talent Blog back in March of 2007. I’m reprinting it here because I referenced it here. Also, I refer to Scott’s book as “The MYTH of Innovation,” though the actual title reads “MythS,” which is actually saying something quite different! – Matt
At a recent marketing conference, the catchphrase was “innovation,” as in, “We’ve entered the age of the ‘innovation economy,'” or, “Today, innovation is the key to differentiation.” Given the premium placed on innovation, a colleague who attended this conference wondered aloud how job seekers could best communicate their ability to innovate.
As a way of answering that question, I’ll direct you to a recent post on innovation hype I found on Scott Berkun’s blog. Berkun has book on the myth of innovation coming out in May, so you’ll have to wait until then to get the whole story, but he states his basic perspective fairly clearly in the aforementioned post: No matter how ubiquitous the invocation of innovation, actual innovations are fairly rare, and, as far as success in business is concerned, rarely necessary.
From the job seeker’s standpoint, if the job you are applying for requires that you demonstrate your ability to innovate, the only real way to do that is to point to innovations you have actually brought into being. Keeping Berkun’s words in mind, however, be prepared to exercise caution and refrain from portraying drastic improvements or significant changes as something they are not, namely, innovations.
Of course you could also follow Berkun’s advice and, when a prospective employer says, “Tell me about a situation where you introduced a real innovation,” simply ask, “What do you mean by that?”
Oct 14, 2011 Comments Off on Slippin’
I was doing OK there for a while with posting every day, but got slipped up by being out of town (after getting slipped up by the weekend). Going to get back in the game.
I must say, for the record (the eternal record of the interweb’s infinite and infinitely expanding memory), that after years of reading posts that exhorted folks to blog every day, and simply ignoring said exhortations, the fact of the matter is that y’all give me more feedback, encouragement, and food for thought the more I blog.
So, maybe all those social media experts (SMexperts, as I like to call ’em) were actually onto something after all.
Speaking of “slipping,” I was just reminded of rollerskating in Venice with Alex and Isabelle (oh, those halcyon days of our youth) and there was some sand on the bike path, which made it a tad treacherous, and a passerby said, “Watch out for the sand. It’s slippery-dippery and you might crack open your skull.”
Except, it wasn’t said so much as a warning but as a wish. Lord, keep us from the homicidal thoughts of passersby.
Oct 4, 2011 2
“There, thought Arren, lay the very heart of wizardry: to hint at mighty meanings while saying nothing at all, and to make doing nothing at all seem the very crown of wisdom.” – from Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Farthest Shore
I recently returned to a corporate blog I launched a few years back and discovered, much to my surprise, that a post I wrote in 2008—“What Do You Want to Do with Your Life?”—is still listed in the sidebar as a “popular post.”
I say “to my surprise” because the post, which described a dispute I had with my father while I was temping back in 1988, elicited an intensely negative response from at least one commenter. To wit:
This blog post doesn’t help anything. It’s a filibuster, and if this is what [your company] pays you to write about, I really wonder about [your company]. Correct me if I’m wrong, but your blog is called “The [your company] Talent Blog: Career Advice and Insights for Marketing Professionals”. Are you advising me to respond to straightforward questions with quotes from Heidegger? Is that good advice? What’s the insight here? “Many cultural traditions support doing nothing”? I’ll make sure to bring that up the next time my boss and I have a performance review.
While some friends of mine offered comments of their own in my defense, I actually agree with this person. In my attempt to “keep it real” and make our blog “human,” I totally lost sight of the types of stories, lessons, or advice that would be most useful to our readers (or intended readers). The image of someone brandishing my rhetorical flourishes—or a copy of Heidegger for that matter—as self-justification during a performance review shone an appropriately laughable light on my pretensions.
So, do I still believe that our culture puts undo emphasis on productivity, achievement, and doing for the sake of doing? Yes. Myriad political, ecological and personal problems find their root here.
Am I still fond of the Buddhist retort to this productivity imperative, “Don’t just do something; sit there”? Quite.
Have I learned, however, that when you are billing what you do as “career advice,” people will want concrete, practical suggestions on how best to advance their careers and not philosophical conundrums that make all activity seem futile, vain or worthless? Definitely.
In fact, this last bit of insight is something that I’ve learned over and over. In most cases, when people are looking to learn something from you, they don’t want context, history, or meta-level musings; they really prefer that you just tell them what to do.
Sep 21, 2011 Comments Off on Blogging Every Day
Somebody told me, “You could have it made/But you talk too much.” – from “Secret Face”
If I’m going to blog everyday, I’m going to have to keep this stuff mercifully brief. Which will mean going against my nature.
Does that mean I’m being “inauthentic” and thus running counter to the very essence of blogging?
Anything is possible, however improbable.
Jun 28, 2011 2
My first response was: “Actually, I blog just for the hell of it.”
“This blog—an ill-organized assortment of essays, reviews, aphorisms and ephemera—serves no purpose,” I wanted to say.
But then, as I thought about it, I knew that this was mere posturing. My blog serves a very specific and, for me, crucial purpose as a space that I “own,” one where I can post and publish my views, my thoughts, and my philosophy.
In fact, I frequently motivate myself to add to this collection new thoughts, or at least newly formed revisions of old thoughts, by saying to myself, “If you really have something to say, something to teach the world, some wisdom to impart, comfort or guidance for the lost or wounded, aid and counsel to the youth, a truth that must be spoken and known, etc., you’d better put it somewhere where it might endure and, from time to time, be discovered.”
That somewhere is here.
For the Hell of it.
Jan 27, 2011 Comments Off on Lord, Give Us the Strength to Understand Ourselves
I set up a blog on Blogspot (now Blogger) back in 2000. I haven’t posted anything there since 2009 and, frankly, my activity on said blog—universal destroyer, inc.—was pretty spotty. For example, I posted nothing at all in 2004 or 2005, bracketing this lack with six posts in ’03 and four in ’06.
I was re-reading my posts last night and was struck by several things, chief among them that I used to indulge in a highly poetical style of writing. For example:
formidable jaws gaping wide – who will clean these teeth? lambswool clotted with blood, crown and throne up-ended and shattered. a blizzard of flaming stones, a sea of ground glass. take a step. take a breath. the eyes are open. the ears are listening. what subtle words of destruction and awesome commandments of revelation await? turn away the curve of the earth. peel away the sun. behind the underneath of everything it is slumbering now. it is dreaming then. now: AWAKEN
plastered to the thick of it. daring to blush in anguish. several more instances of that and we will have an entire catalog. just think, us, we, the morning after the apocalypse, which everyone thinks means death and dying destruction, but, of course, the word simply means “revelation.” what do we fear to confront revealed before us? the veil rent, the bandaid removed with a quick, skin-shredding yank? as if this situation were not “real” and, when facing the brunt of the real real, we will evaporate, obliterated by this uncompromising, uncompromised force. who told us the world is not real and we have to wait and see the real thing later, after death, when the universal death leaps up onto the stage and everything be laid terrible waste? who makes brains think this way?
I was also very partial to cryptic philosophizing:
The “Temporary Autonomous Zone,” however, may be the last refuge of the slacker – or merely the dream of the quiet suburban home where anything goes as long as the doors are closed and the shades drawn (and volume is kept to reasonable levels). As the structures solidify, the gaps too become institutionalized, disciplined. Anything completely outside the system, is irrelevant to it. Think different.
Along the same lines:
The forces of chaos can only be circumscribed – no thing or agent penetrates to the heart, because, unlike order, chaos is primal, the fundamental state – order is an afterthought, epiphenomenal, and the evolving persistence of chaos demands ever increasing energy expenditure on the part of the order-worshippers. Their scheme is a house of cards. The meanings they erect are fetishes to the ego and vain ambitions. There are local victories, of course, subjugated zones, degrees of tolerance. And, naturally, what has been done, will always have been done – this is the nature of occurence. But the goal to which they aspire – permanent, unassailable control – is an illusion, though it can be real enough in specific, timebound circumstances.
Indeed, I frequently wrote about chaos, ethics, and nihilism back then, as well as the war on terror (particularly in 2002 when I was blogging most actively and the war was new, not something that had been grinding on for a decade). I also wrote about music, sometimes like this (written, if I’m not mistaken, about Meshell Ndegeocello):
and reminded yesterday in the presence of an androgynous funk sorceress of the power of music. this is materialist mysticism. no gods. no beyond. no elsewhere. music, generated and evaporated in the flux of time. that we can spend our time this way, dancing, playing. and every religion on earth a construct, a convention. “would you walk the path of righteousness if you knew that there was no heaven, no god, no eternal reward?” many would hesitate; many more would simply walk the path, realizing that that too is one way to live here on earth, to reenact the dramas of faith, the carnival of belief. not believing is possible as well. knowing is possible. not knowing, also. but a bunch of humans together under the spell of music, the energy focused and broadcast through one particularly active node, nodding, funking, precipitating the flow. we’re in it too.
And once like this:
“war is their reality; music is their escape.” saw this on the side of a train this morning advertising some show about people in the military (the “service,” as it is called – they always say that soldiers “serve,” rather than “obey”). picture of a soldier with headphones pressed to his helmet. many consider music an escape, though, more accurately I suppose, you’d have to say that music is an “avenue of escape” or a “line of flight” [deleuze/guattari]. we escape through music to somewhere else. where is that place? different musics describe/conjure up different places/spaces. trungpa rinpoche wrote, “true escape is impossible.” that is, the escape afforded by music is a false escape. why? because it is stationary, insular, solipsistic. “in my head” [black flag] the statement should be reversed: “music is their reality. war is their escape.” music takes place in our heads, a construct of our minds. it is an escape only in the sense that sleep or dreaming is an escape. war, on the other hand, takes place “out there” in the world. in fact, it consists primarily of conquering and occupying territory, contesting or maintaining geographical boundaries, enforcing or preventing specific physical movements by actual human bodies. war takes us outside of our heads; it explodes heads (the true seat of music). war also sets aside every convention and expectation of civil society (the real reality for many). war frees the warrior, the soldier, from the inhibitions and codes of this society, in fact, often demands that he leave them behind in order to triumph in victory. in this sense, it is an escape, and its idolators have often celebrated it as a return to the origin, the essence, to reality in its realest sense, a liberation from the false fetters of civilian life. of course, there has always been a specific music of war and, in fact, the regimented beats of popular music are derived from the martial beats of war. so, in this sense, the reality of music is war and, again, it provides no real escape from it (since, at its core, it is an expression/extension of it). etc….
And where did this walk down memory lane lead me? First to the insight that some things haven’t changed much. I am still obsessed with music, metaphysics (“Why is there anything at all instead of just nothing?”), and ethics in a world without God. On the other hand, my thoughts dwell less and less on chaos, war (for the time being), and political paranoia.
Secondly, and this is sort of what this post is about, it pointed out to me how much I can forget about myself, about both what I have written over time (and I’ve been writing regularly and obsessively for more than 25 years) and how I have written. My style is tighter now, more focused (at times), and far less likely to veer off into the oracular. Remembering this latter tendency, however, I can’t help but feel its absence as a kind of loss.
The web is a memory bank. It remembers what we have forgotten, regardless of whether that forgetting was intentional or just the way things go. For this reason it can serve as a powerful tool for self-reflection and, when we’re lucky, illumination.
Of course, it also means that the web may be the only thing that remembers us after we’re gone. Indeed, to the extent that our web-published musings go unread and unnoticed, it may be the only thing that remembers us now.
PS. For the curious, the title of my post comes from the amazing Funkadelic piece, “March to the Witch’s Castle.” That song is about soldiers returning from Vietnam but also addresses the broader human problem of self-awareness in the face of trauma and time’s passing.
Jan 24, 2011 Comments Off on Playing It Safe
An old friend accused me of “playing it safe” on my blog. Apparently, writing about death metal, however aesthetically outlandish the music or my love of it may be, is of little consequence, big picture-wise.
Of course, I thought that my post on communism and change was kind of edgy—not to mention my frequent advocacy of atheism and/or nihilism—but apparently such musings neither touch nerves, shatter preconceived notions, nor speak truth to power.
Can it be true that there is nothing dangerous about this blog? Have I remained too scrupulously within the lines of accepted opinion, too conscientiously observed protocols of civility, too gently treated the thoughts and feelings of my contemporaries, even when I found them preposterous, stupid, or atrocious?
I suppose this is possible.
Will I henceforth change my approach?
This, too, is possible.
Am I playing it safe with this post?
Aug 17, 2010 10
When I was in graduate school, there was a lot of talk about the “death of the author.” Such talk was driven primarily by French, post-structuralist thinkers like Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, and Lacan who had an intensely nuanced and complex notion of writing and authorship that tended to highlight the supra-personal in any putatively “personal” utterance or authorial gesture. Steeped in such thinking, I became very skeptical of attempts to say with certainty who the “who” is when we ask, “Who wrote this?”
Barthes et al. were responding to various French philosophical currents of the 20th century but especially, I believe, existentialism. Whereas existentialism had put the individual human being at the center of (an ultimately meaningless) existence, thus hoping to establish a new moral center following the death of God, the post-structuralists chose instead to show that the individual was not the center of anything but, rather, the effect of many things (language, culture, discourse, the unconscious, etc.).
The French were not the first or the only critics to suggest that the individual (sometimes called “the subject”) was epiphenomenal. Freud had certainly pointed in this direction when developing his psycho-analytic theories as had Nietzsche a decade or so before him, Marx a decade or so before that, and Hegel at the very outset of the 19th century. But even these gentlemen were not the first to insist on the essentially contingent nature of individual identity which, in one form or another, can be traced back to the teachings of Buddha and even the Vedic authors before him.
Which is all to say that when I read things like Mitch Joel’s recent blog post on “ghost blogging,” my philosophical buttons get pushed.
Conceding that there may be practical value to ghost blogging (“I get that people Ghost Blog and it works”), Mitch shows that his opposition to it is, more than anything else, a matter of faith. Like a Luther for the Twitterati, he writes, “I believe this one thought (and I will stand by it): corporate Blogs being presented as a personal space to share insights have a predisposed and inherent understanding that the person whose name is on it is the actual author.”
You see, Mitch is less concerned with the value of ghost blogging than he is with values or, as he puts it, “ideals” (“I do think that there are some commonly held ideals within Social Media”) which he also refers to as the “pillars of what makes something ‘social’.” These pillars being, “transparency, openness, honesty, human and real voices (not corporate mumbo jumbo) and a culture that embraces sharing between these real voices.”
In other words, Mitch is a moralist who even indulges in the classic rhetorical move of the moralist, the value-laden leading question: “Why is everyone who defends ghost blogging so afraid to state that ghost blogging’s first act is one of deceit and misdirection?”
The philosopher in me wishes merely to point out that expressions like “actual author,” “real voices,” “human,” “social” and so on are not unproblematic.
What, after all, is an author and how does an author, generally speaking, differ from an “actual” author? What makes a voice “real,” particularly when we are talking about written texts (blogs) where the notion of “voice” itself is metaphorical? What attributes belong to the category “human” and what happens when “humanness” is invoked as an ethical category? Since when is the “social” defined by “honesty, transparency, and openness” rather than by concepts like “convention” or “conflict”? Etc.
I’m not sure that Mitch Joel is interested in the history of philosophy, let alone the history of the “ideals” that he invokes. Indeed, I’m fairly certain that he would dismiss my argument—that, in essence, concepts like authorship, or authenticity for that matter, are over-determined, social constructs which in no way represent uncontested, universal values—as equivocation. I am, after all, a ghost blogger whose work goes undisclosed by my clients. Thus, in the eyes of Mitch Joel, Avinash Kaushik, and others, I’m an aider and abettor of unreconstructed frauds and deceivers.
In my “defense,” and in answer to Mitch’s inherently unanswerable question (shades of “How frequently do you beat your wife?”), I would say that, if I am afraid to state that my first act every morning is one of deceit and misdirection, it is because I fear saying something that I do not consider to be true. Rightly or wrongly, I actually believe that the people whose bloggings I facilitate are the “actual” authors of the posts that I produce. The ideas are theirs, the “voice” is theirs, the blog is theirs, etc.
That being said, on a “human” level I resent the jargon of authenticity which pervades social media. When someone says, in the imperative voice, “Don’t be a fake,” I bristle. Why? Because I find the division of human actions into “real” and “fake” itself dehumanizing. Where does the notion of “authenticity” come from anyway? It is a term of trade driven by the desire to differentiate the genuine from the counterfeit so that an item can be assigned a monetary value. “Authentically human” is just another way of saying “Genuine leather.”
When we demand that humans be “authentic,” or criticize them for being fake, it’s because we have reduced them to the status of commodities. In fact, I believe that the social media, rather than humanizing marketing, as Mitch Joel and others have long hoped, have in fact completed the total colonization of human thought and affect by market forces.
Given the absolute assimilation of our lives by the new media, down to the most trivial whims (“I just ate a donut covered in bacon!” “I hate Justin Bieber”), isn’t it possible that the only way to hang on to our humanity is through masks, personae, and “ghosts”?
Or, in the immortal words of Robert Plant, “When you fake it, baby, please, fake it right.”
Image Source: Nick Wheeler.
Jul 30, 2010 Comments Off on In Case You Missed These Tweets
I spend more time tending my Twitter garden than I do planting bulbs here in my own backyard.
To remedy this, I’m attempting a little cross-pollination and invite you, dear reader, to drink deep from my Twitter well. Just look at the precious coins I’ve tossed therein:
Pretty good, right?